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Saturday, April 14, 2001
Odom takes over at South Carolina

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Wake Forest's Dave Odom took the job as South Carolina's basketball coach Tuesday after the school's first two choices turned it down.

"I think this was the first time I've ever been in the Carolina Coliseum and been greeted with applause," Odom said as about 200 fans cheered.

Odom, who spent 12 years at Wake Forest, said he met briefly with South Carolina's players. He asked them to "give me a chance to be their friend first, get to know me first, and then I hope they'll want me to be their coach."

Athletic director Mike McGee, noting he had been involved in a number of coaching searches, said "this one was especially long, but I believe especially fruitful."

McGee several times erroneously referred to Odom as the school's new football coach. After Eddie Fogler resigned, McGee sought Kentucky's Tubby Smith and Connecticut's Jim Calhoun. Both were offered the job, but turned it down.

The new coach said that did not bother him.

"If they were talked to, they should have been. They're great coaches. ... If they were talked to, it didn't work out. Nobody needs to make an apology about that," Odom said.

Wake Forest is expected to go after a head coach to replace Odom, although assistant Ernie Nestor will try to land the job. Wake Forest athletic director Ron Wellman hired Bob Bender at Illinois State and the two remain friends, making Bender, now at Washington, a legitimate candidate.

Gonzaga's Mark Few, UNC Greensboro's Fran McCaffrey, Charlotte's Bobby Lutz, UNC Wilmington coach Jerry Wainwright (a former Wake Forest assistant), South Carolina State's Cy Alexander and Vanderbilt's Kevin Stallings are expected to be on the list as well.

Odom, 58, had a 240-132 record at Wake Forest. He said he was interested in the South Carolina job early and watched the search unfold, but resisted "making some flirting action that would catch their eye."

His contract at South Carolina is expected to be comparable to the $750,000 he made with the Demon Deacons.

Odom's hiring ended a search that began when Fogler resigned on March 12 with three years remaining on his contract. Fogler left after McGee would not extend the contract to a fourth year. Fogler, who was at South Carolina for eight seasons, was 15-15 with a first-round NIT loss to Connecticut in 2000-01.

Published reports linked at least a half-dozen candidates to the job during the search. McGee refused to identify or discuss any of his candidates, but promised to hire a proven winner to help fill an 18,600-seat arena scheduled to open at the start of the 2002 season.

Fans expected a big name after Lou Holtz's hiring energized the football program in December 1998.

In Odom, the Gamecocks have a coach who took Wake Forest to postseason appearances in 11 straight years and won the 2000 NIT title. Odom is a three-time Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year.

The search took another interesting twist when McGee met with former Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins. The South Carolina graduate accepted the job last time it was open eight years ago, before Fogler was hired, then changed his mind two days later and returned to Georgia Tech.

Cremins said Tuesday he was ready to take the job and stay a little longer, but understood the timing was not right. "I have now come full circle with my alma mater," he said.

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